Retirement Calculator: Free Estimate of How Much You Need - NerdWallet (2024)

How this retirement calculator works

To come up with our estimate of the total amount of savings you’ll have for retirement (“What you’ll have”), we start with your current age and how much you’ve saved. Using your income and savings contributions, we calculate how much more you’ll save between now and your projected retirement date. We take salary increases, compound interest and rates of return into account when arriving at the total number.

To calculate your target retirement savings total (“What you’ll need”), our default assumptions include:

  • Retirement age of 67 (when most people will receive full Social Security benefits).

  • A 6% rate of return before retirement and a 5% rate of return during retirement (assuming a more conservative portfolio).

  • A 3% average annual inflation rate.

  • Salary increases of 2% per year.

  • Life expectancy of 95.

You may change any of these default numbers by selecting "advanced details" to reveal them.

How to fill out your retirement details

Annual pretax income: This is the total income you earn before taxes are deducted. Include your salary, business earnings and any other regular sources of income.

Current retirement savings: Enter the total current balances of all your retirement savings accounts, including 401(k) plans, individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and any other accounts earmarked for retirement.

Monthly contribution: This is the amount you save for retirement each month. Include contributions to your 401(k) (including your employer match), IRA and any other retirement accounts. Experts recommend saving 10% to 15% of your pretax income for retirement. When you enter a number in the monthly contribution field, the calculator will automatically translate that to a percentage of your income and display that figure below this field.

Monthly budget in retirement: Your monthly budget in retirement is how much you think you’ll need each month to live comfortably throughout your retirement, before taxes. One way to estimate this is to look at your current spending and project how it might change in retirement.

Other retirement income: This is an optional field where you can enter any additional retirement income you expect to receive. This might include Social Security, pension benefits or other passive income you plan to earn in retirement. Use our Social Security calculator to estimate your future Social Security benefits.

🤓Nerdy Tip

A common rule is to budget for at least 70% of your pre-retirement income during retirement. This assumes some of your expenses will disappear in retirement and 70% will be enough to cover essentials. Remember, that’s a general guideline, and your needs may vary.

Retirement age: Enter the age you plan to retire. Age 67 is considered full retirement age (when you get your full Social Security benefits) for people born in 1960 or later. Life expectancy: This is how long you expect to live. You’ll want your retirement savings and income to last throughout your life, so it's a good idea to aim high here. We are using 95 as our default life expectancy, which is a conservative estimate that assumes a longer life span.

Pre-retirement rate of return: This is the rate of return you expect your investments to earn between now and retirement. Our default of a 6% average annual return is a conservative estimate based on historic stock market returns, which average 10%. However, there's no way to predict future rates of return with certainty, and different types of investment carry different risk. Additionally, we don't include sales charges and other fees associated with your investments in our estimated rates of return.

Post-retirement rate of return: Your rate of return during retirement is typically lower than pre-retirement because most people shift at least some of their portfolio to lower-risk investments.

Inflation rate: We have assumed an inflation rate of 3%. You can adjust this to see how inflation could affect your retirement savings.

Annual income increase: We assume a 2% annual salary increase when averaged out over the rest of your working years. You can change this if you expect your income to increase more or less than that.

Next steps: More answers about retirement planning

Saving for retirement is definitely a long game, but learning about the process doesn’t have to be.

  • Want to learn more? Our retirement planning guide can show you how to get started.

  • What are the best retirement plans? NerdWallet breaks down your retirement options.

  • Want to track the growth of other retirement accounts? Use our 401(k) calculator and Roth IRA calculator.

  • Ready to open an IRA? We've rounded up the best IRA accounts to simplify your search.


Retirement Calculator: Free Estimate of How Much You Need - NerdWallet (1)

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Retirement Calculator: Free Estimate of How Much You Need - NerdWallet (2024)
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